Morality for Beautiful Girls

Morality for Beautiful Girls (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #3)Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved how Mma Makutsi comes into her own in this book, being promoted not only to assistant detective, but now she is also in charge of running Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors and soon has Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni’s two lazy and silly assistants falling in line under her more disciplined hand. Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni is staying temporarily at the orphanage to recovery from a bout of depression, and becomes involved with the mysterious “wild boy” found out in the bush. Lots of the usual philosophical musings from McCall-Smith’s characters on the nature of morality and other aspects of life. Would have been 5 stars, but I’m not a fan of chapters alternating plot threads which he does in this book.

Book description: Precious Ramotswe, founder and owner of the only detective agency for the concerns of both ladies and others, investigates the alleged poisoning of the brother of an important “Government Man,” and the moral character of the four finalists of the Miss Beauty and Integrity Contest, the winner of which will almost certainly be a contestant for the title of Miss Botswana. Yet her business is having money problems, and when other difficulties arise at her fiancé’s Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, she discovers the reliable Mr J.L.B. Matekoni is more complicated then he seems.

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Tears of the Giraffe

Tears of the Giraffe (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #2)Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Now this is more like it. Book #2 seemed much more tightly constructed to me. More of the plot threads were carried throughout the book to their conclusion. It is fun to see the connections between the books and the TV series. One major departure from the TV series (spoiler alert!!) is the adoption of two children from the orphan farm by Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. But Mma Ramotswe takes it all in stride. There is not yet any interaction between Mma Ramotswe and her first husband, Note Makoti, so it remains to be seen if that is in a future volume or if it was added for the TV series.

Book Description: Precious Ramotswe is the eminently sensible and cunning proprietor of the only ladies’ detective agency in Botswana. In Tears of the Giraffe she tracks a wayward wife, uncovers an unscrupulous maid, and searches for an American man who disappeared into the plains many years ago. In the midst of resolving uncertainties, pondering her impending marriage to a good, kind man, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, and the promotion of her talented secretary (a graduate of the Botswana Secretarial College, with a mark of 97 per cent), she also finds her family suddenly and unexpectedly increased by two.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency  (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #1)The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Tried the audiobook several years ago and just couldn’t get into it. I think the narrator’s accent was hard to understand and I couldn’t follow the rambling lack of plot. Then I watched the TV series and loved it so much I bought it. Charming, funny, with some dark drama, and wonderful photography. It made me want to know more about Botswana. I am also a big fan of Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street series. I watched the TV show again recently with my mom, and she wanted to read the book, so I decided this was a good time to do the same. It’s still charming, but I think it lacks something of the humor and drama of the TV series. The various cases seemed more tied together in the TV series, and we had the back story of her first marriage to Note Makoti underlying the romantic tension between Mma Ramotswe and Mr. J.L.B. Matakone. I’m continuing with the second book because the TV series did draw from more than was in the first book, and we’ll see if more of the backstory is there.

Book description: This first novel in Alexander McCall Smith’s widely acclaimed The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series tells the story of the delightfully cunning and enormously engaging Precious Ramotswe, who is drawn to her profession to “help people with problems in their lives.” Immediately upon setting up shop in a small storefront in Gaborone, she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. But the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witchdoctors.

The Importance of Being Seven

The Importance of Being Seven (44 Scotland Street, #6)The Importance of Being Seven by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a joyful start to a new year! I love the 44 Scotland Street series, and this installment brings some sweet rewards to some of my favorite long-suffering characters. To say any more would probably introduce spoilers, so I’ll leave it at that!

Book Description:
The great city of Edinburgh is renowned for its impeccable restraint, so how, then, did the extended family of 44 Scotland Street come to be trembling on the brink of reckless self-indulgence? After seven years and five books, Bertie is—finally!—about to turn seven. But one afternoon he mislays his meddling mother Irene, and learns a valuable lesson: wish-fulfillment can be a dangerous business. Angus and Domenica contemplate whether to give in to romance on holiday in Italy, and even usually down-to-earth Big Lou is overheard discussing cosmetic surgery. Funny, warm, and heartfelt as ever, The Importance of Being Seven offers fresh and wise insights into philosophy and fraternity among Edinburgh’s most lovable residents.

The Unbearable Lightness of Scones

The Unbearable Lightness of Scones (44 Scotland Street, #5)The Unbearable Lightness of Scones by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Alexander McCall-Smith has created a host of wonderful characters. I continue to care about them and their adventures, even after 5 books in this series. I listened to the audio version, deftly narrated by Robert Ian Mackenzie. Of course, he could read the phone book and it would be entertaining!

Book description from Amazon:
The witty and utterly delightful new novel in the national bestselling 44 Scotland Street series.

Featuring all the quirky characters we have come to know and love, The Unbearable Lightness of Scones, finds Bertie, the precocious six-year-old, still troubled by his rather overbearing mother, Irene, but seeking his escape in the Cub Scouts. Matthew is rising to the challenge of married life with newfound strength and resolve, while Domenica epitomizes the loneliness of the long-distance intellectual. Cyril, the gold-toothed star of the whole show, succumbs to the kind of romantic temptation that no dog can resist and creates a small problem, or rather six of them, for his friend and owner Angus Lordie.

With his customary deftness, Alexander McCall Smith once again brings us an absorbing and entertaining tale of some of Scotland’s most quirky and beloved characters–all set in the beautiful, stoic city of Edinburgh.

Bertie, Interrupted

I’ve been listening in the car lately to The World According to Bertie by Alexander McCall Smith. Last night I was headed into the Twin Cities (35 miles) so I reached over to the seat beside me to plug in my portable CD player. I was quite shocked to realize it wasn’t there! I stopped the car and proceeded to search front and back seats and even underneath them. No CD player. The CD case was there (with all but one CD), but no player.

Then I recalled a day last week at the library. A couple of teenaged boys came in and asked if we had a coat hanger. They said the keys were locked in their car. I suggested they ask for help next door with the sheriff. A few minutes later a patron came up to tell me that some boys were trying to get into a car with a stick through the window. I blithely said “Oh yes. They were just in here. They locked their keys in the car.” I should have gone to see exactly what they were doing.

Stupid, stupid, stupid! I am such an honest and naive person, it didn’t even occur to me that it could be anything other than what they told me. And I had left the CD player unplugged in the front seat (with cords attached), and left the windows cracked open (less than an inch) because of the heat (my car has no air conditioning.) When I left that evening, I noticed the visor screen was bent down on the passenger side. And it seemed like the window was open a lot more than I had left it. But it is only in retrospect that I thought anything of it. Yes, I’m an idiot.

I don’t mind the loss of the old CD player so much. In fact, I went and bought a new one today. It wasn’t expensive. But I DO mind the loss of the CD! It was borrowed from the library, and I suppose I’ll have to pay for it. In the meantime, do I continue to listen to the book from the remaining CDs, or do I look for another copy of it? Or will the CD get returned to the library? It’s possible, but I’m not holding my breath.

One way or another, I will finish listening to the book. Meanwhile, here is a description of the first two books in the series.
44 Scotland Street (44 Scotland Street, #1) 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Listened to on tape (unabridged), Sept. 2006.

Review from AudioFile

Alexander McCall Smith modeled this book on the evergreen hit TALES OF THE CITY, by Armistead Maupin, which were published serially in the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE. Smith’s appeared in an Edinburgh daily; the title refers to an address in Edinburgh where several of the main characters live. It’s a great device, imposing specific challenges to the storyteller, working in little chunks of uniform length, all with intriguing endings. The only thing that could be more fun than reading each installment in the paper is hearing Robert Ian MacKenzie’s thoroughly droll and versatile performance. You won’t soon forget the Conservative Party’s fundraising ball, with only six in attendance, one of whom forgot to wear underpants under his kilt. MacKenzie’s touch is flawless. B.G. © AudioFile 2005, Portland, Maine– Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine

Espresso Tales (44 Scotland Street, #2) Espresso Tales by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Listened to on tape (unabridged), Nov. 2007.
Book Description (from Amazon.com)
Alexander McCall Smith’s many fans will be pleased with this latest installment in the bestselling 44 Scotland Street series.

Back are all our favorite denizens of a Georgian townhouse in Edinburgh. Bertie the immensely talented six year old is now enrolled in kindergarten, and much to his dismay, has been clad in pink overalls for his first day of class. Bruce has lost his job as a surveyor, and between admiring glances in the mirror, is contemplating becoming a wine merchant. Pat is embarking on a new life at Edinburgh University and perhaps on a new relationship, courtesy of Domenica, her witty and worldly-wise neighbor. McCall Smith has much in store for them as the brief spell of glorious summer sunshine gives way to fall a season cursed with more traditionally Scottish weather.

Full of McCall Smith’s gentle humor and sympathy for his characters, Espresso Tales is also an affectionate portrait of a city and its people who, in the author’s own words, “make it one of the most vibrant and interesting places in the world.”